Your Hearing: Don’t Neglect It!

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If your doctor ever recommends a hearing test for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean she suspects anything is wrong. A hearing test is a good way to identify potential deficiencies with your hearing and to ensure your ears work well.

just as our vision can become compromised as we age, so can our hearing. Approximately 14 percent of individuals ages 45 to 64 have some degree of hearing loss, with that number reaching more than 30 percent among people age 65 or older. Experts recommend getting your hearing checked every 20 years until age 50 and then every three years after that time. Because hearing loss is a gradual process, it is important to have your hearing routinely evaluated.

Some people may already suspect they have hearing loss. Casual conversations may become challenging to fully understand; perhaps you find yourself boosting the volume on the television sets. Older adults who do not address suspected hearing loss may feel left out of social events because they cannot hear all that is being said or hear what is happening. As a result, they may cut back on visits with family and friends, mainly because they are embarrassed about their hearing loss. Such isolation can then lead to depression.

The multiple causes of hearing loss can include mowing the lawn or using power tools; shooting guns; listening to loud music; having an infection; taking certain medications; producing excess ear wax or hearing issues that are genetic.

Improving Relationships
Frequently, family members and friends may notice a hearing loss in an individual. This can lead to arguments over who said what in a recent conversation or over how loud the television is. Sometimes others can misinterpret a lack of response to what is being said as ignoring them when, in reality, that person just did not hear you. A simple hearing test may be all it takes to resolve these unnecessary disputes.

In addition to determining a hearing loss, a hearing test can provide insight as to where the hearing loss has occurred and how to best program hearing aids needed to allow the individual to hear sounds within the range that has been adversely affected. Imagine being able to hear a child’s laughter again, a bird chirping, or even the sound of a ticking clock!

A hearing test and subsequent plan of treatment if hearing loss is determined can improve social relationships. Some people may be accused of being standoffish or aloof when out in groups, but in reality, that person simply cannot hear the conversation and does not have the confidence to join in the fun.

Testing Versus Screening
A healthcare provider will schedule a hearing test if she suspects you have hearing loss. Testing involves sitting in a quiet booth in which your hearing levels are measured. Those results are then plotted on an audiogram. This is what professionals refer to as a comprehensive hearing exam.

Screening is performed when you don’t exhibit symptoms of hearing loss. This is usually accomplished faster and is less complicated than the full testing process. It may involve something as simple as completing a questionnaire about your hearing. Several websites feature online hearing screening.

It is important to note hearing loss can sometimes be attributed to other health issues and may only be a symptom. It could be caused by an infection, earwax impaction or a potentially serious health concern such as diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease. Hearing loss is also associated with depression, falls and dementia.

Undergoing a hearing test should be a priority throughout life, but it’s especially important in one’s later years. When it comes to any matters of your health, it’s never a good idea to procrastinate.
If you already know you have hearing loss confirmed through past testing, it’s equally important to get retested at intervals agreed upon between you and your hearing care provider. Pay close attention to your hearing, especially if you already know you have sustained a loss, and get it checked immediately if you notice any change. ■

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Common symptoms of hearing loss
For adults of all ages, the following are common indicators your hearing may not be up to par. You may experience all of these or just a few. However, if you notice any of these changes, contact your health care provider to discuss your options for testing and care.
• You have difficulty understanding speech, most
notably in noisy environments.
• You can hear but you do not always understand.
• You frequently have to ask others to repeat
• You avoid social situations.
• You’re exhausted after attending social events.
• You’re not sure from where a sound is coming.
• You notice ringing in your ears.
• You have difficulty hearing people on the phone.